Focusing on the tension and ego-based disagreements that exist behind the façade of a new play’s opening is an interesting premise brimming with potential amusement and cleverly constructed inside jokes delivered with a knowing nod to the audience. Unfortunately Play: the Film, from first-time feature director Alec Toller, never really harnesses this humour. What’s left is an array of stereotypes and caricatures with more annoying mannerisms than entertaining quirks.
The Canterbury Tales (1972) Cast: Hugh Griffith, Laura Betti, Ninetto Davoli Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini Country: Italy | France Genre: Drama | Comedy Official…
If there was just one thing that Werner Herzog proved with his take on Bad Lieutenant—aside from the inevitable reality that Nic Cage and an iguana is a recipe for the best buddy cop movie ever—it was that America ain’t done with the jaded detective. John Dalberg-Acton was right when he wrote that power tends to corrupt, but absolute corruption—at least if we’re to trust the movies—comes quickest from everyday exposure to the evil that men do. The evil that men see is oft-interred in their minds, and Herzog just like Abel Ferrara before him built on a rich film noir tradition of lawmen losing their humanity as they came to realise how horrible it was.
Anyone who has ever studied English Literature or Media Studies will have encountered the idea that there are only 7 archetypal stories – such as Overcoming The Monster, The Quest or The Tragedy. A huge number of films and narratives are also derived from classic fairy tales and myths, but this is usually implicit or unintentional.
Sometimes a film tries to explicitly update ancient stories. This can be clever and covert like O Brother Where Art Thou? (Homer’s Odyssey) or Terminator 2 (Rumplestiltskin); or really contrived like Brother’s Grimm. Conventional wisdom would suggest that hiding a classic narrative within a modern plot is normally more creative that an overt remake. However a new film from Danishka Esterhazy bucks this trend with truly disturbing results.
It’s a road movie. It’s a crime-caper. It’s a musical comedy. It’s a prison break comedy (no drama allowed). It’s Muppets Most Wanted, the second entry in the newly rebooted, Jim Henson-created, Disney-owned Muppets franchise that once, not that long ago (as in 2010), seemed like its days of drawing family-friendly moviegoers to multiplexes were well behind it. But 2011 changed everything – well, at least for the time being. With multi-hyphenate Jason Segal co-starring and co-writing (with Nicholas Stoller), Amy Adams as his love interest, and an irresistibly catchy Oscar-winning song written by Bret “Flight of the Conchords” McKenzie, the return of the Muppets to the big screen wasn’t just for nostalgia buffs. It was a fresh, invigorating – not to mention reinvigorating – return to what the Muppets do best: Entertain audiences with a clever mix of pun-filled skits, self-aware songs, and classic comedy shtick. What wasn’t there to love about The Muppets? Short answer: Not much.
It’s a paradoxical body, the filmography of David Gordon Green, a collective that’s oft regarded as something in a near dependable state of decay. Immediately peaking with George Washington or perhaps All the Real Girls, the theory goes, the director slowly fell victim to a clot of expectations and misgivings, eventually coming to favor illusorily safe narrative choices over the somewhat naïve, though no less poignant, rhapsodic lilts that typified his earliest works. The idea here is that vocational experience is supposed to beget formal refinement, which in turn should beget expressional maturation. But this criticism, like many other reductive exercises, is great with fault. Envisioning a strictly linear interpretation of progress, the suggested notion posits a rather capsular view of how artists develop, ignoring, if not outright rejecting, the complexity and dynamicism of the individual. While fiscal burdens and critical pressures may help to curtail some of their more audacious tendencies, a filmmaker is ultimately a multifarious and evolving entity – even, yes, a human being; to decry thematic or ambient shifts in their oeuvre is to assume motive, and moreover, romanticizes the notion of personal stagnancy.
Nymphomaniac Vol 1. and Nymphomaniac Vol. 2, the starkly austere collection of stories chronicling one woman’s unearthly sexual experiences, reaches a culminating point of the strongest and weakest elements of Lars von Trier’s filmmaking sensibilities.
His latest, which unveiled its first volume at the Berlin Film Festival (in the 145-minute extended cut, rather than the 118-minute theatrical one), is built on the similar artistic conceits of Dogville (2003) and Antichrist (2009). But in spite of what its title suggests, Nymphomaniac – in both its ambitious volumes – is not tailored toward shock value or exploitation of the body. It also avoids the lofty political undertones of the director’s previous films. In fact, von Trier assumes a comic detachment from the very ideas that were overstressed in literal detail in his earlier tales.
Neil Buger director of The Illusionist, directs this adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel, Divergent. Divergent is set in a dystopian future Chicago that is divided into five factions: Amity (peaceful), Abnegation (selfless), Dauntless (brave), Candor (honest) and Erudite (intelligent). At sixteen all citizens have to choose which side they believe they belong in according to their most important personal virtues. Our protagonist Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) learns she is Divergent, meaning she has all five qualities. Divergents are feared and immediately eliminated by the society. Beatrice surprises her Abnegation family by joining Dauntless. She changes her name to Tris and tries to fit into to her chosen faction without getting caught.
Romantic attraction is a powerful feeling, a sensation that can simmer softly in the background or swell to a crescendo of burning passion. It triggers primordial reactions that can’t always be controlled, shaping futures, tearing lives apart, providing instant gratification and fuelling unfulfilled longing. Romantic attraction is capable of many different things but it always has an impact. It’s such a shame then that Jérôme Bonnell’s film fails to elicit much of anything. Like a mass produced car assembled by a robot, all the parts are in place but they’ve been put together without care and none of them are unique.
Pier Paolo Pasolini’s The Hawks and the Sparrows (or the whimsically alliterative Italian title, Uccellacci e uccelini) is a philosophical road movie that encapsulates the political beliefs of the director with absurd social satire and symbolism that announces itself so as not to leave any confusion as the film eschews the notion that art and intellectual discussion belongs solely to the elite. It follows legendary Italian comedic actor Toto and newcomer Ninetto Davoli down the desolate roads of rural Italy in the 1960s and subjects them to a series of absurd tableaus that capture the social conditions of the time in whimsical episodes that lampoon cinematic powerhouses from Chaplin to Roberto Rossellini in a surreal and self-aware farewell to Neo-realism. The cinematic solemnity of Neo-realism did not bring about social changes to feed its tragic heroes, so Pasolini offers a maelstrom of absurd and humorous vignettes in diametric opposition to the constrains of absolute realism but with equally salient topicality through absurd wit and philosophical punchlines.